Audiobook. As with his book Absurdistan (see review), Gary Shteyngart is over the top much of the time. Set in the near-term future, Super Sad True Love Story is told through the diaries of Lenny Abramov and the online exchanges between Eunice Park (his beloved) and her friends and family. It is the depiction of the brave new world that is the point; the love story is an effort to mitigate the horrors of the new world. Let me list some of the highlights of this new world:
- Everyone wears an apparat which gives them access to all kinds of information, but most importantly, economic information about everyone they encounter. You must have the most up-to-date apparat and at one point, someone denounces Lenny’s apparat, declaring that it is as old and useless as an iPhone.
- Credit poles are posted throughout New York; the credit ratings of those within range of the pole are displayed.
- Lenny works for Post Human Services Division which promises eternal life through chemistry to “high net worth individuals.”
- When old friends get together for a drink, they live-stream their conversation and receive constant feedback from people who are following it, and Lenny is urged not to talk about Italy because when he does, they lose followers.
- One “streams” or “scans for data” rather than reading. Books are dismissed as smelly. The young Eunice, referring to her experience reading at college, says she streamed Chatterhouse at Parma.
- In any gathering, one receives feedback on one’s rank within the group. Lenny is No. 40 of 40 people until he puts his arm around Eunice; then he jumps to No. 30. What does this say about him, he wonders.
- Online shopping is a preoccupation and “Ass Luxury” is one of the major retailers; other retailer names are unmentionable in a family blog. Women wear onion skin pants which reveal all.
- New York has become a battleground as the US is emasculated economically and militarily. Foreign and international companies finally take control during a battle referred to as the Rupture, the end of the world as they knew it.
Despite the effort to humanize the book through the love story, it was too relentless to listen to without interruption. It is enormously clever and rings very true, but is not too subtle. I quickly grew very tired of the California Girl interaction of Eunice and her friend (their messages sent through Globalteens are between Euni-tard and Grillbitch).
There is a mention of Charlottesville in the description of a passing character: “She had graduated from Tufts with a major in international affairs and a minor in retail science. Her parents were retired professors in Charlottesville, Virginia where she grew up.” It seems an odd detail to mention, but perhaps it only seems odd because I live here.